by Elyssa Salinas Lazarski
When I was in college, my parents got divorced. I remember running away from everything that could remind me that my world was breaking apart. Overcommitting myself with school and social life was just another way to stay too busy to think about the brokenness of my family and my new life as a child of divorced parents. One summer, I traveled more than 2,000 miles to California to work as a camp counselor. What better way to escape than going full speed halfway across the continent?
The rules about rest
I was so busy and I just couldn’t give up. But then I fell ill – and I was forced to stop. To feel. To rest. And it felt like the world was crashing down around me.
This is the collapsing rest of Moses upon reaching Midian (Exodus 2:15), or of Hagar when the water skin was empty (Genesis 21:16).
Rest at this point is not negotiable. It’s not a luxury. This kind of rest can be painful, even as it is regenerative. This is the rest I experience at the end of a run when I fear that my lungs will explode if I don’t stop.
It is the rest forced after weeping when the tears can no longer come. It is rest housed in a weary soul that cannot run away anymore. It is rest weighed down with worry that I can no longer carry.
I do not wish this type of rest on anyone.
What I look for now
The rest I search for now is creative rest. This is the kind of rest that validates the work I’ve already done and prepares me for the future. This is the kind of rest that I try to schedule into my day to find time away from my work, my spouse and even my infant daughter.
Forcing myself to stop is how I can be present for the world around me. Rest is now about a closed door, a journal, a walk and music that gives me space to feel. This is my holy time, my sabbath.
After the God of all things created for six days, God rested. God rested and called it holy. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done” (Genesis 2:1-2). The multitude was finished, and then God rested. Yet let us not forget before God rested, God reflected on a wondrous creation. “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a). God created. God reflected. God rested.
Rest is a holy endeavor for me because it is then that I stop to recognize what I have done. I sit back and consider what I have made. We are part of God’s creation, but we are also tasked with creating now.
As Adam and Eve were put in the garden to tend it, we inherit the responsibility to take care of the world around us. Yet alongside that responsibility is the tradition of a holy day of rest. Now I admit I do not take a whole day to rest, but I am learning to sit back and admire the creation I am tending around me.
When I was running away from the broken world around me, I forgot to stop and recognize what I was creating from the brokenness. Not every piece could be salvaged, and not everything was “good,” but I was still able to create.
Maybe creation is breaking apart in order to make something new. When God created the world as we know it, maybe stars needed to be crushed in order to form the rock of the earth. Maybe we all come from those broken stars, bits of shattered fire that reside within our bodies. Maybe in order to create, we need to stop, to take a moment to feel our brokenness, feel our beauty, feel our reality. When we stop to rest, we ready ourselves for creation, for putting the pieces back together, or for taking the next steps on our journey. Rest is sacred. We were given the model to stop, look around, and reflect on the creation at our feet.
Take your rest, dear friend. Take the time given to you on the weekend, after the kids go to bed, or in that summer stretched between too-busy semesters. Take a moment, look around and acknowledge what you’ve created. Rest to see how truly wondrous you are as a creation of God. Rest to feel whatever you need to feel. Rest to stop and breathe in the sacred breath of the Holy Spirit.
1. How do you practice rest?
2. What would it look like to make rest a holy time?
3. How does rest relate to creation?
Thank you for showing us the blessing that is rest and making it holy. Let us take time to stop and reflect on what we are creating. Be with us as we feel the regeneration and reflection that rest provides.
Elyssa lives in Chicago with her husband, two cats, and infant daughter. She spends copious time at the local Starbucks and library working on her PhD in theology from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where she is focusing on sexual shame.